Feminists are changing the parenting game, one important life-lesson at a time. While equality-fighters aren't above making mistakes (because, you know, we're human beings) we're also extremely cognizant of the lessons we're teaching our children. Whether it's teaching our kids body positivity, teaching our kids to be sex positive, or simply teaching our kids about food, there are some things a feminist mom is absolutely going to say, and some things a feminist mom will refuse to say.
And when it comes to establishing healthy eating habits, the list of things a feminist mom would never say is, well, pretty damn long. I honestly didn't realize how much I would absolutely refuse to tell my son, until I had him. As a proud feminist, I thought I would have so much to say to him. Now, I'm realizing that as he continues to learn and grow and navigate the world around him, I'm saying less and editing out so much of what our culture says to us (via entertainment, advertisements, and every other medium you could possibly think of) on the daily. Thanks to a predominantly patriarchal society that is hell-bent on promoting unhealthy relationships with food via unrealistic beauty expectations, how we talk about food around and to our children will establish how they treat food in the future. The body type portrayed in advertising as the "ideal", is possessed naturally by only 5% of American women. Still, these images bombard our children ad nauseam, and are easily the reason why 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures. And, of course, it's not just young women who suffer; young men are held to unrealistic body expectations in the name of masculinity and "toughness" as well. One in five men now suffer from an eating disorder, and experts are quick to point to the unattainable idea of the "perfect" body, as the reason why both men and women are developing unhealthy, not-to-mention dangerous, eating habits.
Which is why now, more than ever, feminist mothers are careful about what they do and do not say about food to, or even around, their children. We might not be able to protect our children from absolutely everything, but we can give them the tools to protect themselves, by refusing to say these 11 things about food:
Telling Them Food Is A "Comfort"
We've all heard the term "comfort food", but what you may not know is that the idea of using food to police your emotions is actually harmful, not helpful. Teaching your kid that eating is a necessary reaction to stress, sadness, anger or pain, could potentially establish unhealthy eating habits that are likely to manifest into an eating disorder. In fact, studies have shown that "comfort foods" actually make bad moods, worse. The goal of any parent is to help their child establish a healthy relationship with food, and that can't happen if they learn to replace feelings with cuisine.
Telling Them They Must Finish All Of Their Food
Forcing your kid to finish their meal when they're full (or even just claiming they're full) is not only stripping your kid of complete ownership over their body, it's potentially establishing unhealthy eating habits, like over-eating. Obviously you want your kid well-fed, and you want them to be eating something healthy instead of something sweet. However, when you get your kid options (i.e. this is what's available to you, eat what you can) instead of forcing them to eat, you'll lay down a foundation for a healthy relationship with food.
Telling Them Things Like "A Moment On The Lips, Forever On The Hips"
I mean honestly, just why? Rhyming aside, there's absolutely no reason this should ever be said to another human being, and most definitely never to a child. If we allow our society's unrealistic beauty expectations to seep into our kids' psyches via our own fears and self-consciousness, we're setting them up for a lifetime of self-hatred.
Telling Them Their Sister/Brother Is Eating, So Why Aren't You?
Every kid is different, and that definitely includes siblings. Just because one sibling eats at a higher rate than the other, doesn't mean something is wrong with one or both. Furthermore, it's unhealthy to pit two siblings against one another and pointing out that one sibling is doing what you want them to do, but the other isn't, will only aid in your kids becoming mortal enemies who see one another as competition, rather than loving siblings who will always support one another. (Seriously, it happens.)
Telling Them They're A Picky Eater
A child being a "picky" eater is actually a normal stage in their development, so labeling them as "picky" does nothing but make them self-conscious about a very natural and necessary behavior. So, instead of pointing out negative behavior, call attention to the positive. For example, praise your kid for eating what they did consume, and work towards making eating a pleasant experience instead of an anxiety-riddled one.
Telling Them "Good Job" When They've Had More To Eat Than Usual
This is a tough one, I'll be the first to admit. You want to praise your kids for doing well, especially if it means they're eating a substantial amount of food, and especially if that food is of the healthy variety. At the same time, you don't want to establish a pattern that would suggest to your kids that they get praise or adoration every time they over-eat or simply eat more. It's important that children don't learn that quantity is more important than actual appetite, as your appetite can and most certainly does vary from meal to meal. So, instead, why not try praising them every time they eat, regardless.
Telling Them That If They Do "This", They Can Eat "That"
Using food as a reward can, you guessed it, establish unhealthy eating habits. While food is most certainly a treat, it's also a necessity. You actually need it to survive. Studies have shown that people who were raised with food as a reward, were more likely to end up binge-eating and/or extreme dieting.
Bottom line: food isn't something you should get for being "good". Food is something you should have because you need to have it. It's not something you should restrict until you accomplish that one thing or acquire that other thing.
Telling Them A Food Is "Bad" For Them
There are no "bad" foods. There are foods that are "unhealthy" and there are foods that don't have as many benefits as others, but they're not inherently "bad". It's especially detrimental to describe sweets or notoriously satisfying food as "bad", as you're essentially telling your child that pleasure (their pleasure, more specifically) is bad. The last thing you want to do is establish a sense of judgement around the act of eating. So, instead of telling your kid a food is "bad", you can explain to them that there are some foods you can always eat, and some foods you save for special occasions.
That A Particular Type Of Food Is "Gross"
Describing a food as "gross" around your kid, is undoubtably going to shape how they feel about that particular item. You might not appreciate carrots or spinach, but in order to establish healthy eating habits for your kid, you have to mimic them yourself. Telling your kid that something is "gross", or saying something is gross around them, will stifle their curiosity and keep them from branching out and trying new foods from different cultures. (And, I mean, trying new meals is easily the best part about eating.)
That They'll Have To "Work Off" Their Food
Teaching your kid to "count calories" by establishing how long they would have to work out or "be outside" or "run around" to combat whatever it was they put into their body, is just not healthy. It's no secret that kids need exercise, and it's no secret that kids need food. They don't have to be constantly cognizant of how many calories they're consuming or how much weight they're gaining; that's the bi-product of a shallow culture that cares about appearance more than it cares about health.
That Women Are The Only People Responsible For Making Food
The days of establishing outdated gender stereotypes are over, my friend. A feminist mother is never going to tell her children that women, and only women, are responsible for creating meals or serving meals or cleaning up after meals. Everyone has to eat, so everyone (gender be damned) needs to learn how to provide for themselves, cook for themselves, and eat well for their specific and wonderfully unique body.